County to invest $2,000 in regional immigration attraction campaign

(Gazette file photo)

Investments from area municipalities to leverage funding from upper levels for relocation strategy



The County’s community and economic development commission is poised to spend $2,000 to help build a regional immigration strategy to encourage relocation to the Quinte region.

Community development co-ordinator Trevor Crowe reported to the commission the 2016 Census showed the county’s population declined 2.1 per cent since 2011 to 24,700. That trend, coupled with an aging population and declining youth population paint a difficult picture.

Since 2014, Belleville, Quinte West, Prince Edward County, Hastings County and the Bay of Quinte Regional Marketing Board have partnered on a web portal to attract immigration from other areas. Earlier this year, Belleville — who has served as the lead administrative arm for the site — received funding for an updated portal, which was launched last week. Crowe said the project has been several months in the works and all the partners felt more was needed than a simple upgrade.

“Over the last few months, we’ve been discussing the effects of the portal and how much traffic it has been receiving and what the committee can do to attract more newcomers to the region,” he said. “A web site is just a web site. There needs to be a higher-level strategy for this region.”

The partners decided the best way to fund the development of that strategy would be to seek funding from agencies like the Trenval Community Futures Development Corporation and the Ontario Municipality of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.

Each partner would put in $2,000 to mark a $10,000 investment. That could be leveraged to bring in another $30,000. Some $30,000 would be spent on outsourcing the development of the strategy, while another $10,000 could be spent on an awareness campaign.

In his report, Crowe said the entire region faces challenges due to the lack of a qualified local labour pool. People facing increased cost of living in urban areas, such as the Greater Toronto Area, could be solution to that problem, but they may lack awareness of opportunities available.

Crowe said the development strategy to attract those people could include: public consultation with newcomer communities, consultation with economic development officers, review of existing studies, consultation with Citizenship and Immigration, case studies on leading municipalities in newcomer attraction, and an action plan for implementation.

Resulting outcomes might include establishment of settlement services and supports, the hiring of a full-time immigration co-ordinator, familiarization tours and job fairs, a welcome network, diversity training for local employers and community members, increased marketing, engagement with local employers, and efforts in conjunction with Loyalist College to retain international students.

Commissioner Tim Ward questioned what might be done differently with this partnership than in the past to ensure the County would have a say in the way the money would be spent, rather than simply signing on to a pre-established program like the Bay of Quinte Living Council.

Director of community development and strategic planning Neil Carbone said the new portal will be “municipality-driven” and the arrangement should allow all partners a chance to influence the project.

“This is different. It’s not isn’t Bay of Quinte is the keeper and we’re on the outside and one of many voices. This strategy is for the region. I anticipate we will be giving guidance,” he said. “There needs to be actionable, aligned approaches. Part of those actions are how to better leverage the portal as part of our immigration attraction or support. It’s not the same arrangement as the portal the first time around. We think this will be a lot more pragmatic. It’s designed to allow the partners to buy in.”

Carbone said he believes the collaboration offers “excellent value for money.”

The money will be allocated from the community and economic development commission’s 2018 budget.